What’s the sitch with anxiety about insurance?
The generalized definition of insurance is, “a thing providing protection against a possible eventuality.”
The definition of anxiety is, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
From these lines of dictionary, one would assume that the protection insurance affords against a “possible,” (aka uncertain) “eventuality,” (aka outcome) would quell one’s anxiety about those future, unknown possibilities.
So why does buying insurance make me so anxious?
I was recently purchasing a flight, and the airline offered travel protection insurance for something like $20. This seemingly minor decision stalled my whole checkout flow until the website logged me out for inactivity. What if I buy the insurance and nothing bad happens? Then I’ll have wasted 20 big ones. What if I don’t buy it and something bad happens? Then I’ll regret this indecision for the rest of my life.
At the moment of purchasing any sort of insurance, both, “possible eventualities,” are brought to the fore. Instead of only being forced to think about the possibility of something going wrong (as is the case when making decisions without insurance) you also have to think about the possibility that everything goes right, making the insurance cost unnecessary.
Is there a solution to this paradox? That the protections we set up against unforeseen outcomes actually potentiate anxiety about the unknown? Should we do away with insurance? While on the surface this seems to serve our purpose, I suspect the calm it may bring will be short lived.
Should we set up insurance for our insurance? So even if I don’t get a flat on my way to the airport and I actually do make my flight, which takes me on the vacation of my dreams, the $20 I’ve paid to the first insurance company is reimbursed by a second insurance company to whom I’ve paid $11.50? Perhaps… the economic viability of this option gets complicated quickly. That second insurance company would have a lot of incentive to make sure a few people miss their flights every week. And more insurance is probably not the solution to, “Insurance gives me anxiety.”
Maybe we are looking at this problem all wrong (and when I say we I’m including you). Instead of this being a problem with insurance itself, perhaps it is a problem with having choices in the first place.
Many choices in life give me anxiety. I’m frequently stopped in my tracks, lower extremities paralyzed, bladder activated, by the knowledge that one of the options before me has objectively more value, the other has less, and I have enough information to make a correct choice if I just stop and think really really hard. If, God forbid, I make the, “wrong,” choice, then my life will be worse because of it and I may never recover. This is my line of reasoning while in the cereal aisle at the grocery store, when deciding what park to go to on my day off, when thinking about whether to wear shorts or slacks, etc. Important decisions.
So, again, maybe this isn’t an insurance problem, but rather a choice problem. And I know the solution for that: less choices. More specifically, take choices out of my individual hands and put them in the hands of an expert or super-computer or Reddit-adjacent internet-connected hive-mind of some sort (as long as it’s one without a twisted, troll-like sense of humor).
Does less choice necessarily result in less freedom? Am I talking about ushering in an oppressive, socialist state, that limits autonomy in favor of accentuating the average? Ending eccentricity in order to reduce associated costs, in the same vein as a Ford assembly line? Maybe that is what I am talking about. But there’s an important distinction to be made; I still believe in having a choice to make the decision about having fewer choices. There should be an app, or an algorithm, that you can subscribe to, that makes choices for you.
I digress. With the above in mind, I’m asking that someone (or something) smarter than me decide what we need insurance for, as a population. It seems like, given the level of anxiety I recently had while purchasing travel insurance, and the fact that I ended up going on the trip without incident… maybe that isn’t one we need. I can’t recall any flights I’ve had to miss because of illness, or any bags that have been lost and never returned to me. Yes, I’m probably the lucky one. But, even if, God forbid, I do end up missing a flight and not having insurance for it, that will be that, I’ll understand that insurance was never an option, and I’ll pay the price if/when the time comes. Life will go on.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, given the level of anxiety our nation has had for years surrounding the choice of how to handle health insurance… perhaps it’s time to take individual choice out of that matter for good. Perhaps we should let the experts and the super-computers decide whether or not health insurance should be. It seems like an important and complicated enough decision. I’m not going to go into all of the reasoning behind why, because I know you know. And furthermore, it might be as simple as: choices are anxiety-provoking, and anxiety can cause individuals to make poor choices, so when there is an objectively better choice, for the individual as well as the population, then the choice shouldn’t even be sur le table.
Everyone should have health insurance. How we pay for it, or at what level we provide it, those things can still be discussed, can still be choices we make.
No one should have travel insurance. If things go south (and I’m not talking about the direction of the flight, heyyy) then so be it; travel was a luxury to begin with.
All other insurance types are still up for debate, but I propose we finalize the decisions soon so we can all go on with our lives, insured and free from uninformed choices.